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Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Career Overview

How Long Does Becoming a LPN Take


Average salary: LPN



Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Under the guidance of RNs, Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses are responsible for giving basic care to healthcare patients. For those looking to make a difference in patients’ lives at an entry level, LPN is well worth considering, 


Annual Salary: $53,078/Year (as per Indeed)


How Long Does Becoming an LPN Take?: 1 year



With the supervision of another healthcare professional, LPNs provide hands-on nursing care to a wide variety of patients. While the scope of their responsibilities is significantly narrower compared to an RN, the care they provide and the tasks they perform are no less important. LPNs handle both patient care and administrative responsibilities, including but not limited to: 


  • Bathing and dressing patients

  • Observing vital signs such as body temperature, blood pressure or weight

  • Aiding with certain tests and procedures 

  • Providing physician-prescribed medications

  • Consulting with RNs regarding care plans

  • Cleaning and bandaging wounded areas

  • Administering medications via injections

  • Recording and updating patient documentation


While your exact responsibilities will vary, depending on the workplace, LPNs can generally expect to carry out tasks along these lines.


Becoming an LPN:

Get started with this quick step-by-step guide on how to become an LPN

1. Obtain Minimum Educational Requirements


To qualify for an LPN program, you need either your high school diploma or GED. Because it is an entry-level position, no secondary education is required.

2. Enroll in an LPN/LVN program


You can find a host of different LPN programs in various community and vocational colleges. At the bare minimum, you have to make sure that it is accredited by the National League of Nursing Accrediting Agency (NLNAC). You also need to find the program that best suits your current situation. For example, you can take 7-month accelerated programs if you can commit full time or a 1-2 year program if you are busy. For even more flexibility, look into whether or not the school offers online classes. Other factors include:


  • Tuition

  • Location

  • NCLEX-PN Passing Rate

  • Reputation


All else equal, the passing rate and reputation are your main concerns. You want to make sure that the organization will prepare you for both your licensure tests and the demands of the job. Graduating from a reputable school will also make you desirable when you can apply for an LPN position. 


3. Taking the NCLEX-PN


To protect the public from unsafe nursing care, LPN students are required to take and pass the  National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) before they can practice. After you have completed your certification program, you have to apply for an Authorization to Test through both your local nursing board and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Following this, you have to sign up and schedule when you will take the NCLEX-PN. It is highly recommended that you allot yourself at least a month or two of study time, before taking the exam.


4. After the NCLEX-PN


You can acquire your results 48 hours later. If you fail, you can retake the test 45 days from the original test date. If you do not pass the NCLEX-PN three years after graduating, you may have to retake your LPN program. If you pass, then your State Board of Nursing will mail you both your results and your license. 


Once you acquire the latter, you are finally ready to begin your career as an LPN! Go out there and apply for the best jobs available. 


LPN to RN Path

There are many reasons to make the move from LPN to Registered Nurse (RN for short). For one, the pay is considerably higher. The median RN pay of $83,953 (per Indeed) is significantly higher than the LPN’s annual salary. RNs also get to work more with more authority and responsibilities, compared to LPNs who require supervision. Finally, the switch opens the door for more specialization and career advancement opportunities. To take that career leap, you need to fulfill the following requirements: 


1. LPN-to-RN Program requirements.

Specific requirements for LPN-to-RN programs depend on the school and the state you wish to study in. That being said, there are a couple of requirements that generally apply to most programs. This includes the following: 


  • High School Diploma/GED

  • LPN License

  • A minimum number of clinical experience hours

  • One year of LPN working experience 

  • Meeting a minimum GPA

  • BLS/CPR certification

  • Proof of completion for specific general education and nursing courses


2. Find an LPN-to-RN Bridge Program.


Bridge programs build on your prior education and experience, in order to make the transition to your new profession as seamless as possible. Luckily, there are a host of LPN-to-RN bridge programs you can choose from. Both LPN-to-ADN and LPN-to-BSN options are available to you. The former is an associate’s program that is less expensive and can be completed quicker (one to two years compared to 4 years). While the bachelor’s program is a more costly investment. RNs with BSNs are typically afforded more career opportunities and better pay.


No matter what you choose, there are typically online and part time options available. This way, you can continue your work as you pursue your education. 


3. Apply for and Pass the NCLEX:


To ensure that all nurses are competent enough to provide live-saving care, all applicants must take and pass the NCLEX-RN before they can acquire their license. Even after you graduate your program, different State Boards of Nursing have different requirements before you can take the NCLEX, so it is important to look these up beforehand. Once you fulfill them and pass the licensure exam, you can finally acquire your license. Set aside a minimum of a month or two of studying, in order to maximize your chances of passing. 


Opportunities for Career Growth

Depending on your professional goals, LPN is just the beginning. Licensed practical nurses have flexibility to explore different facets of nursing. From there, they can work towards specializing and advancing their careers, down the line. This segment will go over a few of these opportunities: 




As Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), nurse practitioners take on a greater number of responsibilities, compared to LPNs. Among other things, they can diagnose patients, create preventative care plans and prescribe medication. Though they are still overseen by physicians in certain states, they are still afforded more professional freedom than an LPN. Thanks to the added responsibilities, NPs are also paid handsomely. In May 2020, NPs had a $111,680 median annual salary, or double the average of most professions. 


You first need to make the leap from LPN to RN, by following the steps listed above. Afterwards, you need to complete one to two years of RN experience before you can apply for a graduate nursing program. Here, you can select a nurse practitioner speciality and complete all the coursework and clinical hour requirements. After that, you need to take and pass the ANCC certification exam. The path between LPN to NP can be arduous, but those who commit will find a host of professional opportunities. 


LPN Speciality Certifications


LPNs can seamlessly transition into different healthcare specializations. With the help of certification programs, you will be able to find work in areas of healthcare that you otherwise would not be qualified for. Currently there are around 20 different speciality certifications available to LPNs. Just to give you an idea, here are a handful of examples: 


  • Pharmacology 

  • Transplant Coordinator

  • Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support

  • Neonatal Advanced Life Support

  • Urology

  • Gerontology

  • Breastfeeding Specialist

  • Correctional Health




Registered Nurses (RNs) and LPNs are very different professions. Even if they are both nurses, the expectations, responsibilities and authority of these jobs could not be more different. What works for you will depend on a number of personal and professional factors. To help you choose, this article compares and contrasts the two HCP positions. 


Educational Requirements


The RN educational path is a much larger investment, between the two. It requires either a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) or an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), while the LPN only requires a High School Diploma or a GED. RN programs will take either two to three years (ADN) or three to four years (BSN) to complete, while LPN typically only takes one year. RN programs are also significantly more expensive.  Total tuition costs for ADN programs reach $6,000-$20,000 in public universities, and up to $40,000 in private schools. Depending on the program, BSN programs can vary from $40,000, to $80,000, all the way to $100,000. Meanwhile, the average cost for LPN programs sits at around $10,000 to $15.0000. 


Outlook and Salary


The greater investment is somewhat offset by the higher pay. According to the BLS, RNs made $75,330 per year in 2020. By comparison, the LPN median annual year was at $48,829. As for projected employment growth between 2020-2030, both sat at 9% or which is average across all professions. For RNs, this translates to 194,500 openings a year, within that timespan while LPNs are expected to see 60,700 annual openings. 




Seeing as they are paid higher, it only makes sense that registered nurses take on more responsibilities. RNs provide independent, direct care to their patients while LPNs provide assistance to supervising physicians, doctors or nurses. RNs provide a higher level of care and take on a wider scope of responsibilities. This includes diagnostic tests, collecting blood samples, and cooperating with physicians to draft care plans. LPNs are still involved with the care process, but their tasks mostly center around assisting patients with daily tasks such as bathing,dressing or eating. Because LPNs often work with movement-impaired patients, you will be expected to lift them and move them around from room-to-room. If you have back issues, this is something to consider. Additionally, they also monitor patient vital signs, maintain patient documentation and handle other care tasks. 

Since RNs tasks are more complex and time-consuming, they see less patients overall. Care is usually provided on a 1-on-1 (one nurse, one patient) basis. On some occasions, 2-on-1 care is provided. RNs can even see 3 to 5 patients at a time in medical-surgical areas. Meanwhile, LPNs can see dozens of patients within a single shift.




Another key difference is the work environment. An aging baby boomer population will require more assistance with daily tasks than any other demographic. As a result, 38% of LPNs typically find work in nursing and residential care facilities. The remaining population can be found in hospitals, physician offices, home healthcare services and even government facilities. Meanwhile, 61% of RNs work in hospitals. These nurses are integral to the planning and executing of care plans. Nurses can also be found in Ambulatory healthcare services, care facilities, government facilities and educational institutions. Some nurses operate via home health services, while others even travel from facility to facility, 




RNs take on higher pay, in exchange for greater responsibilities and costlier educational requirements. Though LPNs are not as well compensated, the barrier to entry is more forgiving and they still have opportunities to advance their careers. Regardless, both these are an indispensable part of the healthcare industry. Which path suits you best depends on your own circumstances. 


How to Pay For Your LPN Education

The costs of any nursing program is considerable. Even more affordable LPN programs still sit at around $10,000 to $15,000. Some schools even charge as high as $30,000. This does not even cover book prices, certification exam costs and other miscellaneous fees. No matter how you slice it, that is a lot of money to pay out of pocket. Fortunately, aspirin nursing students have a host of financial aid options available to them. If you want to become an LPN, but you cannot pay the costs just yet, consider the following programs:  




Before you enroll into any program, you are asked to fill out the Free Application for Financial Assistance (FAFSA) form. FAFSA is the largest source of financial aid available to students. They evaluate your income, level of support and financial need to determine if you qualify for any federal financial aid programs like loans and grants. For aspiring LPNs who need to pay for their education, this is the perfect place to start. 


You can either submit the FAFSA online, through the official mobile app or  fill out a paper form from your school or the FAFSA website. You also want to make sure that you have the following documents prepared, before sending your application: 


  • Driver’s License Number

  • Your social security number and your parents’ (if you are dependent)

  • Alien registration number (if you are not a US citizen) 

  • Taxed and untaxed income records

  • Federal tax returns for you and your spouse or parents



55% of medical students use loans to pay off their education fees. When you loan, you borrow a sum of money with the intention of repaying them in full, plus interest. Students can choose from two different types of loans: Federal and Private. Federal student loans are funded by the government. If you are an undergraduate in financial need, you may qualify for subsidized loans. These loans do not gain interest while you are in school at least half-time or during deferment periods. Unsubsidized loans still gain interest while you study, but they are available to graduates, undergraduates and professional degree seekers alike.


Private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, educational institutions and other independent entities. Unlike federal loans, they are typically not subsidized and come with higher interest rates as well. Because of the potential added cost, you have to shop around with the utmost scrutiny. On top of the payment offers and surface interest rates, look into hidden costs, what happens if you cannot keep up financially with later payments and how repayments are structured. You can also check if there is a chance of loan forgiveness, down the line. Finally, you should check whether the interest rates are variable (subject to change) or fixed (set in stone), so you can account for this in your financial plans.




Grants are a form of financial aid usually provided by the government, in order to assist those in financial need.  Because of this, qualifying students do not need to pay back the costs at all. If FAFSA deems you as eligible for a grant, do not be afraid to take these opportunities. Currently, one of the more well-known grants is the Federal Pell Grant .This program serves undergraduate students in exceptional financial need. At the time of writing, the maximum Federal Pell Grant sits at around $6,495 for the award year of July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. In special circumstances, students could receive 150% of their grant within an eligible award year. Alternatively, private entities such as companies or individuals could hold grant programs as well. If you are considering such programs, take the time to review and research these offers to ensure they are legitimate. 




Like grants, scholarships are a form of financial assistance that does not need to be repaid. Unlike grants, they are merit-based programs that are given based on academic performance, extracurricular activities like sports or music and more. While schools and universities are the most common providers, a number of entities host their own scholarship programs. This includes businesses, individuals, non-profits, and even churches. Just like with grants, you have to do exhaustive research before applying for a scholarship, to ensure that the entity is legitimate and acting in good faith. 


Your school’s office of financial aid is a great place to start, since they usually have a list of available scholarships. There are also a host of scholarship databases with recommendations and details if you want to do further reading. When you start applying, be sure to have all your documents ready when you submit your application. Requirements may vary, but most scholarships will require you to submit personal information. This could be an essay about yourself, or a statement describing how this scholarship would benefit you. Finally, always submit your application on time as scholarship programs tend to have strict deadlines. 


Good luck!


Paying for your nursing education can be tricky, but it is not impossible. If you are truly committed to becoming an LPN, there are avenues for you. The costs are not insignificant but the rewards are plenty. You get to enter an exciting, and on-demand profession with great opportunities for career growth. More importantly, you will be given the opportunity to truly improve the lives of others, with your work. 

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